Before I sat down to write this article about the importance of a social media detox I checked Instagram, then Facebook messenger on my phone. I placed my phone across the room and sat down with my laptop, where I immediately opened Facebook. I, like many other young adults, am addicted to social media, and I probably won’t make it through this draft without checking a few (hundred) more times.
We all know that social media has many positive aspects, which is probably why we stay logged in 24/7. It can be a great way to connect with friends and family, a place to network with like-minded people, or a source for inspiration for the creatives out there. In my humble opinion, social media is an essential tool in our modern world, and at the very least a mind-numbing break from reality. We used to have to sit on the couch and binge RHONY to turn our brains off, now we can just reach in our purse and grab our iPhones. And in our current political/social/economic climate, we all need to turn our brains off and take a break from reality a few times a day.
On the other end of the spectrum, social media is a vicious popularity contest, designed to make you feel inferior to those who are prettier, smarter, and more well-traveled. As you sit in pajamas you’ve been wearing for three days straight, there is a beautiful girl leading her dreamy boyfriend by the hand through the winding streets of Santorini on your feed. Sorry, just Googled Santorini and a news story popped up about Greece banning overweight tourists from riding donkeys and had to post it to my friend’s Facebook. Which reminds me of this article that describes how our brains release dopamine when we post something on social media (yay instant gratification), and yet we aren’t fully satisfied, so we do it over and over again. Yikes.
Anyway, maybe you’re not someone who feels jealous when browsing through Instagram, and that’s great, but there’s another downside of social media; it’s an absolute time-sucker. It’s the best place to procrastinate, and a few minutes on Twitter can easily turn into an hour.
Whether you want a break from the vicious news cycle or just need more time to be productive, try giving up all social media for at least a week. You don’t need to delete your accounts, just delete the apps off your phone to prevent any temptation. It might be difficult at first, and you may need to get used to making eye contact with other humans in public, but you’ll get used to it! On your short break, you’ll have time to catch up with friends, get some work done, and really be present wherever you are.
If you’re worried you’ll be tempted to check social media during your detox, have some easy backup activities lined up. Keep a book in your car, a crossword in your bag, and remember you can always call your mother. There are so many ways to kill time on a busy train that don’t require getting frustrated by Twitter!
Now phones and apps are making it easier to monitor the time we spend on social media, which is great when you return from your detox and want to be aware of how much time you’re wasting. For example, Instagram has a new feature that tells you how long you spend on the app and allows you to set a limit for yourself. I’ve exceeded my limit a few times already, but I needed Instagram to write this article, I swear!
I barely lasted a week on my detox, but I’m glad I did it and plan on doing another one soon. It was nice to be in the moment and to be in public without hiding behind my phone. As someone with social anxiety, my phone can be quite the crutch so this was like extreme exposure therapy for me. At the end of the week, I went on a beach trip and didn’t feel the need to take pictures of my view, which would’ve been overly lit and terrible anyway. I’ve traveled quite a bit and I appreciate taking photos of landmarks and impressive views, but damn we overdo it. We’re so bad about it that selfie sticks have been banned from many places, which is an embarrassing low for humankind.
If you can’t last a week without social media, at least try it for a day or two. I promise you will feel better, both about yourself and the world we live in. Consider it an act of self-care, a break from brunch photos and selfies. They will be there when you come back, in case you forget what an acai bowl looks like during your detox.